Minister of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture Dr. Hussain Rasheed Hassan has expressed his disappointment of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) failure to restore tuna stocks. He made the statement at the 17th Infofish World Tuna Trade Conference and Exhibition being held in Thailand.
Speaking at the event, Minister Hassan said tuna consumption in the Maldives is roughly 163kg of tuna per person per year and tuna is caught for local consumption and exports. He said the national tuna fleet of approximately 650 licensed fishing vessels provides direct employment for more than 17,000 people, which accounts for over 20% of the workforce. He said the fleet catches about 120,000-140,000MT of tuna annually, which amounts to as much as 98% of the country’s gross exports.
Moreover, Minister Hassan said that commercial net fishing is legally banned in the Maldives while much of the world’s tuna is caught using purse seines and nets. He said instead all the tuna is caught one by one, by hand, using pole-and-lines, adding that every tuna is pulled out of the ocean individually. He added that pole-and-line fishing is the most sustainable form of tuna fishing in the world and that the pole-and-line skipjack tuna fishery is the first Indian Ocean tuna fishery certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.
Furthermore, he highlighted the socioeconomic aspects of Maldivain fishing industry. As such, fishermen are not salaried or contracted and work for a share of the catch, and share profits among the crew on a pre-agreed basis. He said this renders the fisheries sector free of any detrimental labour-related concerns such as forced labour, slavery, and human trafficking.
Minister Hassan noted the Maldives has been a full member of IOTC since 2011 and it was disappointing that the commission has not established robust policies to restore the fish population. He added that many countries have not taken the initiative to restore fish stocks and implement sustainable fishing and he called on non-governmental organisations (NGOs), private parties, Marine Stewardship Council, and eco-friendly groups to prioritise solving these issues.